By editorial board • 

McMinnville malls a vital facet of local commerce

The commercial areas stretching along Highway 99W in McMinnville won’t win any national awards or earn any feature write-ups in travel magazines, as the city’s downtown “living room” has. But the busy commercial corridor is as important, if not more so, to the city’s overall vitality.

When the local Rite Aid moved to a new site nearby, we worried about the gaping space it left in the McMinnville Town Center mall. Large, vacant retail spaces along the highway can become eyesores symptomatic of economic distress, whether warranted or not.

So it was welcome news when Harbor Freight announced it would be moving into a portion of the former Rite Aid space this fall, with Planet Fitness filling the rest by January. 

Those two new businesses are neighbors with a UPS shipping outlet, a Radio Shack, a locally owned Hallmark shop, a health food store which recently celebrated 40 years in the same location. Such is the diversity of amenities included in neighborhood and community malls.

While Third Street is the hub for tourists, diners and boutique shoppers, the vast commercial lands lying along McMinnville’s 99W spine are what make the county seat a regional center, capable of serving smaller surrounding communities that lack the population to attract the full range of vendors. 

Commercial malls represent a major component in a healthy economy.

They house shops providing jobs and serving to keep money in town. Without them, we’d all be shuttling to and from Salem or Portland Metro for routine needs.
Having the totality of a sale remain in the community is always preferred, but having a portion of sales remain, as is the case with outlets belonging to national chains, is better than seeing all those dollars spent elsewhere.

There’s no data on local vacancy rates for neighborhood and community malls. But we would guess McMinnville falls well below the 10 percent national average.

Maintaining a high level of mall occupancy requires continued investment and, often, a measure of out-of-the-box thinking. Take, for example, the Mayfair Plaza, anchored by Grocery Outlet.

The plaza underwent a major overhaul a couple of years back, getting an updated facade in the process, in order to keep from being viewed as dowdy and out of date. And it was recently rewarded with the debut of Mattress Mania in a space vacated when Sears relocated.

We’ve been blessed with another example courtesy of the off-highway Bohemian District, across from the county transit mall on First Street. The owner is in the process of gracing the mini-mall located there with new design and architectural elements.

The News-Register’s most recent edition of its Indulge Yamhill Valley dining guide features two more examples, both featuring locally owned restaurants. Banner’s went in next to Dollar Tree, on the east side of the highway, and Eiffel Grill in next to Mikey’s Pizza, on the west side.

The importance of this sector should not be forgotten or taken for granted. Diversity is important and highway malls help provide it.


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